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ChemSense software supports the creation and sharing of text, images, graphs, drawings, and storyboard animations of chemical processes. The software was developed by SRI International with funding from the National Science Foundation from 1998-2004, and was released as open source in 2007.

Visit the ChemSense web site to learn more about the project and see examples of student work. Our publications document changes in students' representational and discursive practice and the value of visualizations for enhancing their understanding of the behavior of particulate entities. The particular value of the software lies in how it affords students the means to make and justify specific design choices (e.g., as they create stepwise animations) to their peers and teachers. To make design decisions, students need to think critically about the entities and processes they are representing. Representations created in ChemSense also serve as a ready means for formative assessment.

ChemSense is based on open-source Java frameworks, including the Expresso web application framework and the JavaBeans Activation Framework. It can run on various databases, and has been tested with MySQL and HSQL databases.

Download the source and war file and see more details via the SourceForge project page. Installers for the ChemSense client and server applications are available on the ChemSense Installer download page.

ChemSense Studio Client Application

The ChemSense Studio Client software supports the sharing, viewing, and editing of a variety of chemistry representations, including text, images, drawings, and animations of chemical processes. The software consists of a client, which views and edits files, and a server, where items are stored. You need to connect to a ChemSense Server (see below) and have a login account to use the ChemSense Studio Client.

To run the ChemSense Studio Client, download the installer from the ChemSense web site or download the source and run the "ant runstudio" target.

ChemSense Animator Standalone Application

The ChemSense Animator is a simple drawing and animation tool that supports the creation of storyboard animations of chemical processes. This tool is the most popular tool in the suite of tools offered in the collaborative ChemSense Studio Client. Due to this popularity, it was pulled out as a separate, stand-alone application. It does not require a login account or internet access to run.

To run the ChemSense Animator, download the installer from the ChemSense web site or download the source and run the "ant runanimator" target.

ChemSense Server and Web Gallery

The ChemSense Server stores user account information and student work, enabling users to view and comment on each other's work through the ChemSense Studio Client. The server also includes a ChemSense Web Gallery interface that allows teachers to view student work from a web browser, create student groups and individual and batch accounts, manage those accounts, and view aggregate data (e.g., number and types of items, number of comments made, number of logins and most recent login, etc.) from individual students and across students. Students can also log in to the ChemSense Web Gallery to view and comment on others' work.

To run the ChemSense Server and Web Gallery, download the installer from the ChemSense web site or download the war file and do the following:

To run the chemsense server and web gallary,

  1. Drop chemsense[VERSION_NUMBER].war into the 'webapps' directory of a servlet engine like Tomcat (see Tomcat documentation on deploying web applications),
  2. Rename the file to "chemsense.war" (i.e., remove the version number from the file name), and
  3. Start the servlet engine. The .war will expand, and be served.
  4. Create directories for userfiles and logs next to the webapps directory.

To put this into pseudo code,

cp chemsense-[VERSION_NUMBER].war $MY_SERVLET_ENGINE/webapps
mv $MY_SERVLET_ENGINE/webapps/chemsense[VERSION_NUMBER].war $MY_SERVLET_ENGINE/webapps/chemsense.war
mkdir $MY_SERVLET_ENGINE/userfiles

Assuming that your servlet engine is on port 8080 on your local machine, the initial URL http://localhost:8080/chemsense will provide a starting point to exploring the many features. You can use the following account for testing:

Login: guest1
Password: guest

The default administration account is:

Login: Admin
Password: (blank)

The first thing you should do is reset the Admin password. Go to to the Expresso administration interface at http://[your-domain-name]/chemsense/expresso/frame.jsp and log in as Admin to review and change the Admin password. You may also want to click on Setup/Setup Values and enter your custom values, especially for AdminEmail, ChatDir, CompanyName, MAILFrom, and MAILServer.

Finally, see the ChemSense Server Readme file (distributed with the server installer) to learn more about creating and administering accounts.

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